Head over to Home County
London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
Whether it is the 150,000 people strolling through Victoria Park or CBC Radio 3 placing it on the national list of must attend summer music festivals, the event now known as the Home County Music and Art Festival has many supporters.
This year’s event — which runs July 20-22 — will be the 39th edition of the popular festival. However, it is the first under the newly rebranded name.
Catherine McInnes, artistic director of Home County, said the change reflects the festival’s focus not just on the music, but also the unique artwork that is so much a part of the festivities.
“We want people to understand we are a music and art festival. We felt just saying folk didn’t define what we are all about,” McInnes said. “Many people come just for the vendors and don’t care as much about the music. Our vendors are juried, we look at it for the integrity of what they bring. We want to acknowledge the importance of the visual art.”
This year’s festival is once again expected to draw between 130,000 and 150,000 people to the park where they will enjoy headliners such as Kathleen Edwards (July 20), Joel Plaskett Emergency (July 21) and Quartette (July 22). All together, there are some 40 performers, 115 craft vendors and 33 food vendors.
While that may seem like a lot to pack into Victoria Park, McInnes said a great deal of thought goes into keeping the festival a manageable size. The popularity of Home County, McInnes said, means she receives hundreds of requests from performers looking to take part, but only 30-40 acts are selected each year.
“We are very mindful of not overextending our team or jamming the park. It doesn’t help us to overextend the park; we have limited hydro, limited space. We maximize what we have, but we aren’t there thinking bigger is better,” McInnes said. “We work hard to make things better, improving the quality, but that’s not necessarily getting bigger. We don’t need three birthday cakes, we just want one cake, but we want to make it the best cake possible.”
The popularity of Home County is reflected in a budget that has grown from $160,000 to approximately $275,000. That increase comes in handy as McInnes, who is in her seventh year as artistic director, said a great deal of effort is spent programming a lineup that will appeal to both long-time fans and newcomers alike.
“I have really worked hard to bring in a younger demographic. I think what brings in a younger demographic is bringing in acts they want to see,” McInnes said. “But by the same token, I have worked hard not to turn off the people who have been coming since 1974. They are the die-hard Home County fans and there are certain things they expect to see.”
McInnes said the challenge for her is creating a balance between “emerging artists, established artists and what I call veteran artists.” As many acts from London and the surrounding area helped build the country’s strong folk music community, McInnes said the biggest challenge is determining who makes the cut each year.
“You have all these phenomenal artists in their 60s who have been at it for 30 or 40 years. You have those who have been at it since the ‘80s and ‘90s,” McInnes said. “It is like you have four or five different decades of artists that are so passionate about it that they are still at it. It is a very competitive marketplace. There is so much talent in this country.”
And while the talent is plentiful, so too is the passion felt by many of those so-called Home County die-hards that McInnes refers to. That passion is translated into festivalgoers who schedule Home County into their summer plans every year.
As to why the festival garners such a passionate following, McInnes said she believes a lot of that has to do with the atmosphere inside the park.
“I think we do a really excellent job at creating what I call a community vibe. There is a very peaceful, loving atmosphere in the park,” McInnes said. “We work hard to make sure the artists have a great time and that translates to the audience too. People just seem to have such a lovely time. That is what draws people back.”
For more information on the Home County Music and Art Festival, visit www.homecounty.ca or contact Catherine McInnes by phone at 519-661-9116 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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